Iowa's 2007 'M.I.P.'s'

Some folks like to run lists that talk about players that teams can ill afford to lose. We don't like to think in negative terms, so let's talk about the same thing, but in a positive that end, here is one person's view on this year's M.I.P's: Iowa's Most Indispensable Players for 2007

If you are a fan of the NFL, a popular question each preseason is to list the players on each team that said team can ill afford to lose.


We'll apply that to the college game and this year's Iowa Hawkeyes.   Now, you don't want to lose any player, because of what that means to the individuals and then the team.  So to put this into a more positive parlance, we can look at this as an exercise in preseason MIP's; most indispensable players. 


You may agree or disagree with my selections here, and you can have your say on the message boards.


I will make this order related to whom I think is the most indispensable player, then the next, and so on.


#1:  QB Jake Christensen


Now before some of you start snickering and making another comment about some perceived ‘man crush' that I have on the kid (and I think that stuff is fairly comical, by the way), let me explain myself.


None of Iowa's three quarterbacks in the mix has much experience.  Jake has one start under his belt, the bowl qualifying and final win of the 2006 season against Northern Illinois.  He was 19 for 30 with two touchdown passes, over 250 yards passing.  Either his first or second pass was intercepted in that game, but it came off the hands of his intended receiver.


When I look at whom the most indispensable players are, the first thing I look at is depth at their position.  I am not necessarily saying that my MIP's are the ‘best' players on the football team, rather, the most indispensable.


When I look at the quarterback position, even though Jake is not long on experience, I think that he is miles ahead of his backups, Rick Stanzi and Arvell Nelson.  Nelson may have some more mental maturing to do, with his recent citation for driving without a license as exhibit A, and last year being late for the bus after he was told he would dress out for the Michigan game as exhibit B.  Not much is known about either Stanzi or Nelson.


Jake has been in the program for two years, learning from Drew Tate's success and mistakes.  He's a cerebral football player that also has the mental capacity to handle the position.  And mistakes and inexperience are magnified at this position.  I don't want to sound like I think that Jake is a cagey veteran, because he is not.  But he's the only player at that position that I feel comfortable with if Iowa is to improve over last year.


For me, there may be no bigger drop-off from starter to backup than there is with Jake, except for maybe….


#1-A: DE's  Bryan Mattison/Kenny Iwebema:  I list both defensive ends here, but I may as well list all four starting linemen, along with Matt Kroul and Mitch King.  Mattison really had a great season in 2006, especially since he had a target on his back late in the year as the only ‘healthy' outside rusher and penetrator left on the line.  Chad Geary came in for some spot duty, but there is a huge drop off there.  All of the players on the defensive line two deep are green.  Adrian Clayborn has beefed up to 275, and he may well turn out to be something special.  But until I see it with my own eyes, an injury along the defensive line is something that keeps me awake at night.


#3:  C Rafael Eubanks:  With the injury to Rob Bruggeman in the spring, Eubanks' health becomes a pretty big deal.  He has starting experience at center, which is a big deal.  The backup center is walk on Travis Meade.  Meade played some last year, and was respectable when pressed into action.  But Eubanks is a pretty special player, or if you are not into hyperbole even during the preseason, he has the skills to be a pretty special player.  There is a significant drop off at this stage of the game, at least from my ‘haven't been to practice' vantage point.


 #4:  OLB A.J. Edds:  Edds was called on as a true freshman last year, and you would have to qualify his year as a major success.  Iowa's OLB or ‘Leo' linebacker is a beefy stand up defensive end, almost harkening back to the days of Iowa's 5-2 defense.  He takes on the tight end, he handles a fullback looking to make a kickout block…he has the least opportunities to run in space, plus he still has pass coverage duties at times.  Edds proved he could handle the load.  His backup is 2006 blue chip recruit Jeremiha Hunter.  Hunter has zero experience.  Lighting could strike the same place twice, but we hope we don't have to see that put to the test.  This is a call based purely on experience.


#5:  FS Brett Greenwood:   Now, I know this one may raise some eyebrows, being that all we know of Greenwood is that he was a popular mention by Kirk Ferentz in the spring, and that he is a walk on from Bettendorf.  He was listed as the co-#1 FS coming out of camp, along with Marcus Wilson, a player that has seen the field during his career, and has been around longer.  There were a few players this past spring that had some academic work to do.  WR Dominique Douglas was the name and situation that grabbed the most attention, but some folks wonder if Wilson wasn't in the same bag. 


I prefer to be careful with instances like this, even if the message boards are full of speculation.   I guess we'll know full well on this front on July 31st in Chicago when Kirk Ferentz addresses the media for the first time this summer.  If there is smoke on this front, then Greenwood, someone that has not taken a serious snap in his Iowa career, becomes all the more important.  Behind him would be either another walk on, or some true freshmen candidates.


Now, for a few names that you may wonder about, due to their not being mentioned, but that are close to the list:


RB Albert Young:  Iowa isn't super stacked at RB like they once were, but Damien Sims can carry the ball and has done so.  I hope both are around all year, however.


TE:  After Jake, Tony Moeaki is next in line on the list of players that some fans wonder about with regards to my frequent mentions.  I can't wait to see him bloom, but Brandon Myers has really turned some heads.  But now that I think about it, you might add both of these players after Greenwood on the list above, because of how Iowa likes to use two tight ends, and will do that this year with these two deers.


OL Seth Olsen:  He made the biggest strides on the OL last year, and is arguably Iowa's #1 returning OL, and can play more than one position


CB Charles Godfrey:  I think he is due for a breakout year, and with Bradley Fletcher's out of season troubles, things look thin to start the year.

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